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ARC Review: Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I was really enjoying this for most of the book. I LOVED having a nonbinary artist POV – especially one where their gender isn’t an issue and it’s their bumbling inability to focus on anything that isn’t art that gets them in trouble. Jebi is so relatable. The novel is dense enough that I had to be in a quiet place to focus on it, but it’s so fascinating.

Some of my favorite things about it:
1 – casual unremarkable nonbinary characters, LGBT+ relationships, and polyamory THAT DON’T DRIVE THE STORY.
2 – The magical paints. Also the process by which they’re created made me cringe, as an artist.
3 – Giant metal war machine dragon that’s actually a pacifist and more of a philosopher than anything? Heck yeah.
4 – bumbling artist attempts to find a job as an artist and ends up working for the war department of their conquerors? oops.

What even was up with that ending though??? It really threw me. The pacing is off for the last 20% or so as well, the combination of which knocked a star off my rating.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Rebellion publishing for providing an e-arc to review

Arc Review: Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls – Immigrants by Elena Favilli

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I haven’t read any of the previous Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls books, but I may have to remedy that. The immigrant women showcased in this book are inspiring and showcase a variety of careers and admirable diveristy. (Though, surely there could have been more than one lesbian?) Also, I’d never heard of many of the women before. Clearly there is a need for books like this.

The stories had to be brief to fit on a single page, but I felt in several instances that the language and concepts had been simplified far enough to obscure their meanings. I imagine they were intended as read-aloud stories for little girls – 5, 6, 7 years old maybe – but I think girls 8-16 could benefit greatly from a book like this with more indepth discussions.

The illustrations are beautiful and really helped make each of the women seem more real.

I’m going to try to read some of the stories to my 6 year old son because these stories aren’t just for girls – they need to be read by everyone to help erase prejudice in this world.

I would *love* to see a similar series focusing on LGBT+ people. That’s something else kids need to read about.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Rebel Girls for providing an e-arc to review.

ARC Review: Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Five enthusiastic stars for a complex and compelling story!

I had to take a couple breaks from reading this as it was very intense and densely written, and I was several times in too much pain to concentrate. I would definitely recommend it though as it’s so good!

It’s refreshing to find an epic fantasy based on a pre-Columbian society, and the worldbuilding was so well-thought-out and complex. I could really imagine being down in the depths of the Maw and at the war school Hokaia and in the clifftop city of Tova and on the ocean and river- it was all vividly described without being too much. I also love how cacao beans are used as a form of currency. I could feel the rumbling discontent in the Tower and in the clans of Tova and in the Maw… It’s a world on the edge of change and it really feels like it.

I also LOVED that there are plenty of nonbinary and trans people and that some use they/them and several use xe/xem/xir pronouns seamlessly and without making a big deal about it. They were just there and it wasn’t even a big part of their character development. So refreshing.

Xiala is a Teek ship captain who drinks and parties hard (and gets in trouble), Serapio a young man whose mother chose him to be the vessel of the Crow God and carved his body accordingly – and sent him tutors to whittle his mind to the shape required. Naranpa is a former denizen of the Maw who was promoted to Sun Priest, Iktan head of the Tower’s Knives and her former lover. Okoa is a student of a warrior school and son of the murdered head of the Crow clan.

The characters were all wonderful and I loved reading about all of them as they struggled against one another and with one another. I can’t wait to read how their stories continue. I’m definitely invested in Xiala and Serapio, Naranpa and Iktan, and Okoa. The minor characters too were fascinating and well-drawn.

I can’t wait for the next book!

*Thanks to NetGalley and Gallery Books for providing an e-arc to review

Throwback ARC Review: The Silvered Serpents by Roshani Chokshi

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I reread the Gilded Wolves just before reading this one as it had been a while and I’m glad I did. The first thing I noticed about the Silvered Serpents is that it is bleak. The setting – the ice and snow of Russia – was the perfect bleak, harsh backdrop for this story. None of Severin’s circle are coping well with Tristan’s death – least of all Severin.

Severin was really hard to like in this one. He’s so preoccupied with amassing power to protect those he loves that he loses track of what he loves about them in the first place. Laila and Enrique and Zofia and Hypnos are all estranged and wounded too, and the book as a whole showcases a loss of the hope and warmth of friendship and family from the first book.

There are some intriguing new characters – and a mindblowing reveal at the end. The Fallen House’s Sleeping Palace is beautiful and dangerous and the treasure hunt has higher stakes than the heist in the previous book. And after that ending, I’m anticipating even higher stakes in the final book.

I loved the descriptions and detail and the well-paced unrolling of events. Chokshi’s writing keeps getting better with every book of hers I read. I can’t wait for the next book!

*Thanks to Netgalley and Wednesday Books for providing an e-arc to review

Teaser Review 4: Swamp Thing by Maggie Stiefvater, Illustrated by Morgan Beem

I’m celebrating the weekly countdown to publication by sharing a teaser review and the fourth excerpt (of 4) from  Swamp Thing: Twin Branches by Maggie Stiefvater, available now to preorder.

I adore everything Maggie Stiefvater has written, so of course I jumped at the chance to read Swamp Thing. The art isn’t the style I normally am drawn to but it’s beautiful and strange and really works for the story. I also didn’t have any prior knowledge of Swamp Thing but I love what Maggie did with the origin story here. Since it’s Maggie, it’s gorgeous and a little creepy, with just a touch of magic – and weird in the very best way.

*Thanks to NetGalley and DC entertainment for providing a review copy

EXCERPT #4 (of 4) BELOW:

I’ll be back next week with a full review!

Teaser Review 3: Swamp Thing by Maggie Stiefvater, Illustrated by Morgan Beem

I’m celebrating the weekly countdown to publication by sharing a teaser review and the third excerpt (of 4) from  Swamp Thing: Twin Branches by Maggie Stiefvater, available now to preorder.

I adore everything Maggie Stiefvater has written, so of course I jumped at the chance to read Swamp Thing. The art isn’t the style I normally am drawn to but it’s beautiful and strange and really works for the story. I also didn’t have any prior knowledge of Swamp Thing but I love what Maggie did with the origin story here. Since it’s Maggie, it’s gorgeous and a little creepy, with just a touch of magic – and weird in the very best way.

*Thanks to NetGalley and DC entertainment for providing a review copy

EXCERPT #3 (of 4) BELOW:

I’ll be back tomorrow with the third excerpt!

Teaser Review 2: Swamp Thing by Maggie Stiefvater, Illustrated by Morgan Beem

I’m celebrating the weekly countdown to publication by sharing a teaser review and the second excerpt (of 4) from  Swamp Thing: Twin Branches by Maggie Stiefvater, available now to preorder.

I adore everything Maggie Stiefvater has written, so of course I jumped at the chance to read Swamp Thing. The art isn’t the style I normally am drawn to but it’s beautiful and strange and really works for the story. I also didn’t have any prior knowledge of Swamp Thing but I love what Maggie did with the origin story here. Since it’s Maggie, it’s gorgeous and a little creepy, with just a touch of magic – and weird in the very best way.

*Thanks to NetGalley and DC entertainment for providing a review copy

EXCERPT #2 (of 4) BELOW:

I’ll be back tomorrow with the third excerpt!

Book Review: Piranesi by Susanna Clark

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was such a fabulous book! It’s magical and mysterious and I’m so glad I opted for the audiobook, because the narrator was absolutely fantastic and really brought Piranesi to life.

I’m in love with the setting – who wouldn’t want to live in an endless labyrinthine house full of statues with tides rushing through it’s lower halls? Piranesi felt such joy and love for the House that he made me love it too. He also seems to believe that it can communicate to him through the birds that wheel about the halls – he watches which statues they land on and then tries to extrapolate a meaning.

There are nagging discrepancies that clued me in early on that everything was not as it seemed on the surface. It all centered around the Other, Piranesi’s only friend and the only other person alive in the house. (There are 13 skeletons, but they are obviously not alive, even though Piranesi brings them offerings of food and makes sure they remain in good order.)

But the Other has stylish, polished clothing where Piranesi’s clothes are worn to rags. The Other sometimes brings him things like vitamins and new shoes. (Piranesi subsists on a diet of fish and seaweed, as these are the only foodstuffs the House provides.) The Other is brusque and preoccupied with rituals that Piranesi does not understand and has little interest in.

The story is slow and beautiful and moves like the tides that rush through the halls of the House then recede. The characters are intriguing, more so as the story progresses and the inconsistencies and discrepancies add up. There’s this sense of peace and discovery and awe and wonder at the House that the main character (who is Piranesi but also not) feels and it bleeds into everything we discover.

The audiobook narrator is fabulous, the story engaging and mysterious, and it feels so intimate and cozy. Like I’m just sitting by a fire with Piranesi as he recounts his adventures to me. I love his heart and his empathy and his kindness, especially as they’re contrasted with Ketterly’s brusque indifferent egotism.

My only complaint is that it isn’t longer. I would listen to this story if it were ten times as long with pleasure.

Teaser Review: Swamp Thing by Maggie Stiefvater, illustrated by Morgan Beem

I’m celebrating the weekly countdown to publication by sharing a teaser review and the first excerpt (of 4) from  Swamp Thing: Twin Branches by Maggie Stiefvater, available now to preorder. (I posted the first three teasers on my tumblr blog already, so I’m posting them here daily for the next few days now.)

I adore everything Maggie Stiefvater has written, so of course I jumped at the chance to read Swamp Thing. The art isn’t the style I normally am drawn to but it’s beautiful and strange and really works for the story. I also didn’t have any prior knowledge of Swamp Thing but I love what Maggie did with the origin story here. Since it’s Maggie, it’s gorgeous and a little creepy, with just a touch of magic – and weird in the very best way.

*Thanks to NetGalley and DC entertainment for providing a review copy

EXCERPT #1 (of 4) BELOW:

I’ll be back tomorrow with the second excerpt!

September 2020 Wrap-up

September was another good reading month for me. I read 19 books and liked most of them quite a lot, loved several of them, and didn’t DNF any.

I rated them thusly, though I approached ranking them slightly differently, as you’ll see below. First we have the star ratings:

And then then ranking:

As you can see the two systems don’t quite match up. This is because I don’t use the same criteria when giving stars to say, a romance novel and a fantasy epic. And also because I don’t rank them until some time has passed, and the distance makes it clearer which books I love and which I only really like. I also reserve 1 star for DNFs (because if I can’t bring myself to finish it, there’s a reason for that) and the rare book that I am interested enough in to finish but extremely dislike parts of.

This seems a good time also to do a yearly-until-now wrap-up, which you can see below. I have read 114 books thus far and greatly liked the vast majority of them.

I also ranked the books from the first half of the year but never posted it, so I’ll add that here. I’ll rank the second half of the year at the end of December.

I would absolutely highly recommend everything in the Really Like and Love categories. I would have some reservations about recommending those in the Like category, and wouldn’t recommend those in the Meh and Nope categories at all.

And now, on to October!!!